“Was Christmas his favorite time of year or something?” Grayson Northe shifted his gaze to Sam then back to Cassie. She was looking at him as if he were the one wearing the Santa suit and resting in a casket. A tiny crease separated her blonde brows, and her bright blue eyes definitely lingered on his mouth.
“Uh, yeah. He loved Christmas,” Cassie finally said, “but I wouldn’t have been surprised to find him in any number of costumes at his own wake.” She turned in her seat to face him more fully, and Grayson enjoyed the view. The V-neck on her otherwise demure black dress offered a hint of what hid beneath the fabric.
And he liked. Always had. Cassie Shreaver hadn’t changed a bit since high school.
Well, actually that wasn’t true. She had changed. She’d improved. She’d gotten sexier, which Grayson wouldn’t have thought possible. At sixteen, she’d been smoking hot.
At thirty, she was volcanic.
With any luck, Cassie had changed in other ways too. Like hopefully she’d forgiven him.
“What are you doing here?” Her voice brought him out of the past and away from his mistakes.
“I’m paying my respects.”
“But why?” Her voice had risen a bit and the man next to her gave him a sideways glance.
Grayson’s first thought was husband, but then he remembered Cassie had a younger brother. Devon. The scraggly kid had filled out and now sported a buzz cut, no doubt following in the combat-booted footsteps of Cassie’s army father.
Trying to ignore the memories of Captain Shreaver’s military-grade stare every time he’d come to pick up Cassie for a date, Grayson said, “I work for your uncle.”
“Construction?” Her dazzling eyes narrowed. “Since when? I thought you were in Australia.”
“I was. Running wildlife adventure tours was great, but my mom isn’t well.” He glanced down to his black dress shoes—his only pair of dress shoes—then looked back up to Cassie. “I came back last month to take care of her.”
Different emotions warred in Cassie’s eyes, but she blinked and they were gone. “I’m sorry to hear about your mom.”
“Thanks. I’m sorry about your uncle. He was awesome to give me a job.”
“He never said anything to me about you working for him.” She gripped the back of the chair with her left hand, and Grayson was encouraged by the lack of a wedding ring on her finger.
“I asked him not to.”
“And why would you do that?” Again her voice got louder and her brother coughed in warning.
“Take it outside, Cass, before Dad realizes who you’re talking to,” Devon said. “I always liked you, Grayson, but I don’t think I’ll be able to stop my father from trying to fit you for a casket while we’re here.”
“Good point,” Grayson said, shooting a quick glance toward Captain Shreaver who hadn’t taken his gaze off his Santa-suited brother. Thank God. He’d known it was risky to come, but he owed Sam that much. He’d been hoping to see Cassie too.
It was time.
“Can we talk?” He held his breath, waiting for Cassie to answer, praying she’d say yes.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” Her gaze went down to his lips again though, giving him all the green light he needed.
“It probably isn’t a good idea, but do it anyway.” He smiled and put his hand over hers on the back of the chair.
She stared at their touching hands and nodded, barely moving her head. “Meet me later.”
“Where?” He wasn’t leaving any details of their meeting unsettled. He didn’t want to give her a chance to back out.
Licking her lips in a way that made heat creep over his entire body, she slid her hand from under his, turned around, and dug in her purse, pulling out her phone. “Number?”
He gave his number to her and after a few seconds of her tapping away, his phone vibrated in his pocket.
“I sent you my address and a time.” She waved her hand toward the door. “Now scoot.”
“Quickly,” Devon added.
Grayson glanced to Captain Shreaver only Cassie’s father was no longer in his seat.
He scanned the immediate area, but didn’t see the man, and he was a hard man to miss. His large, square frame made him easy to spot anywhere. Anywhere except at a funeral home in a sea of people all wearing dark clothing.
Cassie and Devon shrugged simultaneously when Grayson looked to them to reveal the captain’s whereabouts.
“Good luck,” Devon said.
“Hurry,” Cassie added.
Well, they were no help.
Grayson slowly rose from his seat, and with a final glance at Cassie—man, she still sent his heart racing—he side-stepped out of the row of chairs and mixed into the crowd. He kept his head low and made it to the main doors of Finwield’s.
He opened the door and stepped across the threshold, heading for his truck in the parking lot.
“Maybe I wasn’t clear.” The deep, commanding voice made Grayson jump.
When Cassie’s father materialized before him, Grayson’s flight response definitely thought running was a good plan.
“Captain Shreaver.” Why did his voice have to squeak like an adolescent’s on the man’s name?
“What part of ‘never come back here again’ or ‘leave my daughter alone’ was confusing to you, son?” Cassie’s father folded his arms across his chest, the shoulders of his black suit jacket straining at the seams.
“No part, sir.” Did people die from the sheer force of a person’s glare? If so, Grayson was going down. At least he was already at a funeral home. Convenient.
A muscle in Captain Shreaver’s jaw twitched as his blue eyes drilled holes into Grayson’s skull. “You better have an outstanding reason for being here, kid.”
Visit tomorrow for the final chapter of Red Suit Surprise! Check out my other tales at www.christinedepetrillo.weebly.com.